British public support plastic surgeons’ call for government to introduce graphic warnings on all firework packaging

BAPRAS are calling on Government to introduce graphic warning images on firework packaging showing the potential injuries caused by misuse

Nearly 70% of parents in Great Britain say they would support this change

The number of patients attending A&E because of firework injuries has more than doubled since 2009-10

The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) are calling on Government to tighten regulations around firework packaging, making it mandatory to include graphic warnings.

Despite awareness campaigns and repeated safety warnings issued each year, a significant number of life altering injuries occur across the UK every winter, particularly among those who are not attending organised events.[1] BAPRAS believe that an overhaul of firework packaging is required to reduce the growing number of unnecessary, life-changing injuries sustained from the misuse of fireworks, which often require extensive reconstructive surgery.

Research carried out by YouGov found that nearly 70%[2] of parents in Great Britain would support the introduction of graphic warnings on firework packaging to deter inappropriate handling, and warn of the potentially life-changing consequences to the user in moments immediately before use. 

In England last year, 4,436 individuals attended A&E because of an injury caused by a firework – a figure that has more than doubled from 2,141 firework-related injuries in 2009-10.[3] 

50% of all people admitted to hospital due to the discharge of fireworks were aged 18 or under - and 80% of all admissions were male.[4]

Commenting on the campaign, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and President of BAPRAS, David Ward, said:

“We are extremely concerned about the continued misuse of fireworks, particularly by those under the age of 18 away from organised events. Although packaged in a jovial, toy-like fashion, people forget that when using fireworks, they are handling explosives which can cause extremely serious injuries that may require extensive reconstructive surgery.

With many of our surgeons having to attend to these types of injuries each year, BAPRAS are calling on the Government to make a common-sense change by legislating to ensure all firework packaging in the UK includes mandatory graphic warning notices, similar to those found on cigarette packaging.”

In recent years there has been a positive shift towards more responsible marketing for products which pose a threat to health and wellbeing; including gambling, alcohol and cigarettes. Advertising junk food to children is prohibited and selling sweets at supermarket checkouts is banned.

Despite this, firework packaging continues to echo the visual language of sweets and games – with warnings buried in small boxes on the back of the item – and colourful stalls are often set-up at the front of stores.

Offering his support to the campaign, Member of Parliament for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick MP said:

“The alarming figures raised by BAPRAS today make clear the urgent need for Government to introduce graphic warnings on firework packaging demonstrating the dangers of misuse. We have sensibly legislated to ensure the risks of other harmful products such as smoking and alcohol are made clear on packaging – without similar changes for fireworks, I fear the numbers of those injured will only continue to rise.”

Northern Irish Consultant Plastic Surgeon and member of BAPRAS and the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, Alistair Brown, added:

“Every year, plastic surgeons across the UK are required to perform costly emergency reconstructive surgery due to the misuse of fireworks, with people often losing large portions of their hand or receiving severe facial injuries.

Far too often, this is caused by teenage boys handling or throwing rockets and putting themselves and those around them at serious risk.

In Northern Ireland, we have seen that the combination of legislative changes and safety campaigns is effective in reducing severe injuries caused by the misuse of fireworks, but would welcome further regulation from the Government banning frankly inappropriate packaging.”

Greater legislation in Northern Ireland has been linked to a reduction in injuries. Legislation introduced in 2002 requiring a license to purchase category 2 or 3 fireworks was followed by a significant drop in number of injuries reported (136 in 2001 to 38 in 2002).[5] More recently, a national firework safety campaign, which ran in Northern Irish media, led to a further decline in injuries requiring surgery.

Professor Shokrollahi, Consultant Burns & Plastic Surgeon and spokesperson for the British Burn Association said:

'Anything we can do to raise greater awareness of the dangers of fireworks is to be commended. In addition to packaging, I think we should also be look at promoting the importance of not mixing alcohol with fireworks, as well as considering tougher penalties with regards to fines for inappropriate use or possession would also be worthwhile'

[1] Macneal, P. High numbers of firework related injury referrals to the London Burns Service during the recent ‘Bonfire night’ period, is it time for new regulations? Burns 2018; 1011-1023

[2] This survey was conducted by YouGov from 3rd-4th October 2018, with a sample of 2,020 adults in Great Britain. 

[3] NHS Digital. Hospital Accident and Emergency Activity. 2017-18/2009-10.

[4] NHS Digital. Hospital Episode Statistics for England. Admitted Patient Care statistics, 2017-18.

[5] House of Commons. Hansard. Fireworks. 16 October 2006. Volume 450.

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For images of mocked up packaging click here: 

Packaging 1
Packaging 2
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